Thursday, September 03, 2015

#NatlPrep : Disaster Preparedness For Kids




Note: This is day 3 of National Preparedness Month.  Follow this year’s campaign on Twitter by searching for the #NatlPrep hash tag.  This month, as part of NPM15, I’ll be rerunning some updated  preparedness essays, along with some new ones.



Growing up in Hurricane Alley, during the very active 1950s and 1960s, I was primed at an early age to respect the power of nature and to be prepared for the unexpected. If that wasn’t enough, our daily barrage of lightning storms during the summer months only added emphasis to the need to always keep a weather eye out. 


During my `formative years’, a lot of named storms crossed my path (I spent most of that time living in the green circle around Tampa Bay), and like most kids in Florida, I kept a hurricane tracking map my  bedroom wall to monitor their progress.  


I knew their strength, forward speed, and direction of movement, and dutifully updated the map every 6 hours.



Call it therapeutic. But I took comfort in knowing where these storms were, where they were likely headed, and knowing when they posed a potential threat - and more importantly – when they didn’t.   


I was involved, and so I felt in control.

Throw in the cold war, the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, and constant school duck & cover drills and evacuations, CONELRAD alerts on TV, films like Survival Under Atomic Attack and `Bert the turtle’ PSAs in elementary school, and you’d think you’d have a recipe for night terrors and phobias.



But amazingly, most of us just took it in stride.  In large part, I believe, because we were encouraged at a very young age to participate in disaster preparedness. 


While the atomic attack scenarios were certainly scary, we were empowered by being `prepared for the worst’, even if some of those preparations were a bit dubious (the protective properties of student desks against high yield atomic blasts likely being less than advertised).


Fortunately, disaster preparedness – particularly for kids - has come a long way from the `bad old days’ of the cold war.


Today, our concerns are focused on natural disasters, like floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes.  Scenarios that are far more survivable than an all-out nuclear attack, and that can be approached in a more `kid-friendly’ fashion.


Still, the core message – that disasters happen, and we should all be prepared – hasn’t changed.’s kid friendly preparedness page contains games and activities for kids along with information for parents and educators on how to teach simple, but effective preparedness lessons.  


Many states have their own preparedness site for kids, such as Florida Division of Emergency Management’s Kids Get A Plan page, which provides an excellent interactive introduction to preparedness for children. 


Florida’s  Disaster Preparedness For Kids


Most of these programs are designed for younger kids, so I was pleased earlier this year to find an online disaster preparedness game more suitable for older kids; the ISDR: The `Stop Disasters’ Simulation Game.  The game has five scenarios, with three levels of difficulty in each, to choose from.  Earthquake, tsunami, hurricane, wildfire or flood.



For more ideas on teaching kids to be disaster resilient (albeit, earthquake centric) SHAKEOUT.ORG has a long list of educational resources divided up by suitable school grade brackets (K-6, 7-12). 


Although most parents want to protect their kids from undo worry - when a disaster threatens, it threatens all of us – regardless of our age. 


Helping kids to understand more about emergency preparedness and community resilience will help them cope (and perhaps, even help) in the event they, or their community, are caught up in a disaster.

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